“It is with great joy that the Anglican Diocese of Montreal hopes to ‘plant’ a new church congregation into the historic Montreal-centre parish building of St James the Apostle in 2016. Our aim is to reach young, urban professional and multicultural individuals and families through a modern Anglican form of worship and evangelism. This pilot project is part of our exploration into what 21st Century church will look like in Montreal”, says Bishop Mary Irwin-Gibson, Anglican Diocese of Montreal.
In his Bishop’s Charge of 2014 entitled Called to Grow former Bishop of Montreal Barry Clarke underlined the need to prayerfully hold together the tensions of joining in the Mission of God, managing over $300 million of challenging real estate and doing so within a radically changing environment of leadership and discipleship. In its 2010-2015 Mission Action Plan, the Diocese of Montreal repeated a need to work towards the planting of vital churches.
Following these strategic objectives, Diocesan Missioner Mark Dunwoody was instructed to research and explore a relationship with the Diocese of London, UK where the adult worshipping population has risen by over 70% in recent years by and where there are plans to establish 100 new worshipping communities by the year 2020. This research led to connections with Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB) and one of their Canadian-based church planters, The Rev’d Graham Singh. Before his retirement in the Summer of 2015, Bishop Barry Clarke commissioned a feasibility study for an HTB-style plant somewhere in the Diocese. These plans were prepared to be handed over to the new Bishop for further consideration and potential implementation.
In a parallel process, new vision for the Diocese has come through the election of Bishop Mary Irwin-Gibson who has made this a key project and objective in the first season of her episcopacy. Bishop Mary has underlined the potential for peacemaking, new mission and new forms of leadership that this endeavour could bring - she has also taken a lead in bringing together the various stakeholders involved in making this project a well-considered and critically-reviewed Kingdom endeavour within the Diocese.
In Bishop Mary’s prophetic call for unity in diversity and the exploration of new models, a sense of God’s encouragement has continued. We have seen a level of agreement within the Diocese and with our various partners, making it seem as though God is actively engaged in this process:
“A culture of creativity has been the key to how we have reached this place of doing something new in our Diocese. Everyone involved has approached this idea with an ‘open heart’, an ‘open mind’ and an ‘open will’ as we have crossed the valley of transformation. By harvesting thought streams from our wider diocesan family, and looking to other parts of the Anglican communion for ideas, we have helped weave a new church concept that will compliment our existing Downtown churches. We give thanks to all of the many leaders involved - they have never let the process destroy the vision” says Mark Dunwoody Diocesan Missioner, Anglican Diocese of Montreal.
The Greater Montreal area represents a multicultural, global city with a population of some 2 million people. Economic, linguistic, cultural and political shifts have contributed to both the successes and the great challenges of this city. Spiritually, the radical decline of traditional forms of church has been followed by intense debates about the role of organized faith in public life. On the one hand, Quebec and Montreal culture can be said to be actively working against the established forms of the church. On the other hand, Montreal’s global and creative ‘vibe’ may be said to be ripe for a spiritual revival.
“I come from a liberal, Anglo-Catholic tradition but over the space of 20 years have come to see how effective and embracing the Alpha and HTB movements have been. I love our traditions, but I also believe that this movement is exactly what we need to compliment traditional ministry in the Downtown of this global city. I welcome this initiative with open arms,” says the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, The Very Rev’d Paul Kennington
“For over 150 years, faithful Christians have been worshipping at St. James the Apostle Anglican Church. Following several years of reflection about the future, it has been decided to make way for something new. We recognize there is deep sorrow felt by many as we close this chapter in the life of the church community. But, we do so in the knowledge of God’s great plans and the prayerful work surrounding this new initiative in partnership with the leadership in the Diocese. Although some members may choose to join other parishes, it is our hope that many will be 'encouraging godparents' and take part in this new mission venture,” says the Rector of St. James the Apostle Church, Archdeacon Linda Borden Taylor.
The Rev’d Graham Singh will lead this initiative. Graham grew up near Toronto, is bilingual in French and English and is married to Céline from Paris, France. They have three young children. Graham grew up in a choral Anglican tradition (at St John’s, Elora) but later experienced an awakening of his faith at Holy Trinity Brompton through the Alpha Course. Following subsequent training and ordination, Graham has planted three thriving churches in the HTB-style. From 2000-2013, Graham was based in the UK and from 2013 until now has been based in the Toronto area, working on interdenominational partnerships through Church Planting Canada (for whom he serves as Executive Director) alongside local pastoral ministry. Graham holds a BA (Hons.) in Political Science from Huron College at the University of Western Ontario, an MSc in Diplomatic History from the London School of Economics and a BMin in Christian Ministry from Ridley Hall and St Mellitus College. This new project will become part of Graham’s ongoing Doctor of Ministry studies in Church Planting at Asbury Theological Seminary.
“I count it as a very great privilege to come to Montreal and serve our Lord Jesus Christ under Bishop Mary and alongside other Diocesan colleagues in this endeavour. Of course the HTB model has great hope for us, but we are under no illusions: this model will need adapting for our bilingual, Montreal context. I am particularly encouraged by clergy colleagues from different perspectives than my own, who have offered space for me to be who I am as I prepare to lead this new initiative. I believe we are seeing opportunities for an Anglican Church of Canada where we can agree to try different ideas, within the unity of the body of Christ,” says The Rev’d Graham Singh.
“We are delighted to respond to the Bishop of Montreal’s request for encouragement and learning together. Graham and Celine are some of our most trusted church planters and we pray that they will offer anything they can as this new team plays its part in sharing the great news about Jesus and the transformation of society,” says The Bishop of Islington, The Rt Rev’d Ric Thorpe who also acts as liaison between this church planting project and Holy Trinity Brompton.
“[This proposal] has my entire approbation and blessing. I rejoice at this latest sign of the work of the Holy Spirit in renewing our communion. Oceanis divisi eucharistia conjuncti.” says The Bishop of London, The Rt Rev’d & Rt Hon Richard Chartres in his letter of 29th October 2015 to the Bishop of Montreal.
All aspects of this church plant will be overseen directly by Diocesan leadership and under the Anglican Bishop of Montreal, in conversation with supporting partners such as the Diocese of London UK and Holy Trinity Brompton. All various stakeholders will be brought together at regular intervals, as is appropriate to each stage of church planting, with a view to reflecting on the progress and learnings. The plant team will be lead by The Rev’d Graham Singh who will become a normal stipendiary minister within the Diocese of Montreal and under its Canon Law. Team building for this new initiative begins from January 2016 and all interested persons are invited to join a newsletter from www.stjamesmontreal.org or contact The Rev’d Graham Singh on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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